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Not Taking Yourself Personally

4 Agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz's instagram.
The 4 Agreements from Don Miguel Ruiz’s instagram.

I find myself pondering Don Miguel Ruiz, Sr.’s “four agreements” quite a lot lately.

When I’m not talking about them (which is most of the time, since I work from home and my parrot, Pearl, has a pretty short attention span), I’m thinking about them.

Sometimes I also read about them in the book by the same name, at least on the days when I’m not so tired at night I just fall into bed as-is.

Oh, and I follow Ruiz on Instagram, which gives me a ready daily supply of reminders just in case.

All this talking and thinking and reading and following is really helping me steer a steadier course when it comes to my relationships with others.

For instance, “be impeccable with your word.” This agreement reminds me that all I can do, and control, is my side of the street (as my mentor Lynn would say). I can’t make other people be impeccable with their word, but I can be impeccable with mine and do what I say I’m going to do (and not say it if I am not planning to do it).

And “always do your best.” This one is an especial favorite because in the book, Ruiz goes on to state that your best might be better on one day than another. If asked, I can provide plenty of proof that he is correct about this.

“Don’t make assumptions” helps me remember that what I think I hear and see is often not what is actually being displayed or said. So before I go on the warpath – as exciting and tempting as that sometimes feels – I might want to check it out with the other party first to be sure we are both on the same page. War? Cool. Peace? Ok, cool.

But my hands-down go-to agreement these days is “don’t take anything personally.”

Whether the issue is what he said or what she didn’t do, that look she gave me or the (imagined or real) slight he sent my way, it’s not about me. Period. It just isn’t. It never is and actually can’t be.

Whatever it is or isn’t, it is coming from inside another person, a person who may or may not choose to accurately share their fundamental motivations with me, if they are even aware of their actual, factual motivations themselves!

I use this with my family, my friends, my pets, acquaintances, colleagues and total strangers. I use it with celebrities and politicians and other people I feel like I know well but really don’t.

I use it with my beloved 12-year-old Toyota and the mosquitos waiting eagerly to greet me each morning.

I use it with people who hate me just because I’m (pick one or several) white, female, American, earning above the poverty line, an animal owner (pets – some people get really bent out of shape about this one), introverted or something else entirely.

I also use it more and more with people who like me for any of those reasons or for any reason at all. Mostly, people who like me like me because it works for them, not because it works for me.

This reminder helps me to not keep patting myself on the back when someone likes me or wants to hang out with me – it helps me keep being my authentic self whether people like me or don’t like me or whatever the case may be.

But where I haven’t been using it yet – until now – is with myself.

Until very recently, I totally didn’t get that I could use the four agreements on me. For example, say I drive off and forget something I needed to bring with me and I say something sarcastic to myself like, “Awesome – another totally unorganized day. As usual.”

I don’t have to take this personally. I don’t have to get down on myself just because some snippy little voice in my head decides to be a bully.

Or let’s say I look in the mirror and what is looking back should look way better IMO. So the voice makes a snarky comment about this and how my pet turtles have more fashion sense than I do.

(They do, by the way, but that’s what happens when you get lucky and your DNA gives you permanent red dots and orange cheek patches, respectively.)

So now I know I don’t have to take any of this personally. I really don’t. It is just an opinion. The fact that it was generated by some part of my brain and came out of my mind and appears to be directed at me aren’t what we’d call hard facts. They’re assumptions, and rather biased ones at that.

I can just ignore it. It’s not about me. That nastiness is coming from some part of my past, some dimly-lit file cabinet covered with dust that almost never gets the attention it thinks it deserves these days, and it’s rather irked about that. Every so often it makes a feeble bid for control, and that’s all it is – a power play I can choose to notice or ignore.

So I choose to ignore it. Life is too short to be miserable, and it is certainly too short to spend it making myself miserable. What a waste!

So starting just this month, I have finally begun to apply the four agreements, and the “don’t take anything personally” one in particular, to myself.

Not only does it work well, and way better than I actually expected it to, but it feels GOOD.

Today’s Takeaway: If you could give yourself one gift this winter season, what would you give yourself? You can pick anything – nothing is off limits. The gift I’m giving myself this winter is freedom from taking myself personally. I may give myself other gifts as well, but right now I sure am delighted with this one! 

Not Taking Yourself Personally

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Songwriter. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). Not Taking Yourself Personally. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2019
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